Friday, June 27, 2014

Outcast #1

I always give Robert Kirkman’s new series a chance. Hundreds of great issues of Invincible and Walking Dead have certainly earned him that. Thief of Thieves started slow and has gotten better (at least according to the trades I’ve read) and it seems Outcast might be on a similar path.

Kirkman plays around with time and our expectations of storytelling as the issue launches. There is some hopping around between time and locations that sort of throw the reader off. I assume that was the intention; that we would be unsure of which damaged kid we’re seeing in the opening pages is the child-version of our protagonist. It’s funny; I had ZERO expectations coming in to this comic. I literally had no idea what the book was about.

It takes a few moments, but eventually it becomes clear what kind of comic this is. It’s a book dealing with demonic possession in rural West Virginia. Our lead, Kyle Barnes, is the survivor of not one, but two demonic episodes in his past. One occurred when he was a child and the other as an adult as he tried to lead a happy life. These experiences have led Kyle to become a broken man, hiding in his childhood home avoiding contact with the world. Events in this issue conspire to get him back out there.

Kyle is what is known as an “outcast,” something the demons seem to at least recognize, if not value. His blood has unusual properties, and it seems Kyle is also good at punching kids in the face. It seems that Kyle will be teaming up with a local reverend to assist in demonic exorcisms.

Kirkman is ably supported by the moody art of Paul Azaceta. I’ve long had affection for Azaceta’s work; I got some commissions from him years ago at a con that blew my socks off (Taskmaster and Baron Zemo, if you are curious). The art is effective in setting the mood, and most upsettingly, the kids look like kids. Many artists have a hard time getting that look down, but Azaceta doesn’t. It is really upsetting seeing the spiritual and physical damage these kids endure as the book goes on. This is a horror comic; it is supposed to be upsetting.

There have been a fair amount of demonic possession stories over the years, and Kirkman’s holds up fine. Azaceta’s work is very strong, and I’m happy to see him on a high-profile monthly book. But while I love Kirkman’s survival horror and super-hero books, I’m only starting to come around on his horror and crime. I think I’m giving this the “Thief of Thieves” treatment and I’ll check out the next issues from the library.

This comic is GOOD for horror fans who like exorcist style stories, especially if you want those stories in a rural setting.

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